The BlackBerry Curve 8310, RIM and AT&T's successor to the popularCurve 8300, includes all the fixings BlackBerry fans have come to love, including a sleek design and a 2-megapixel camera. But the 8310 adds in GPS, previously only on the 8800 line, all for $99.99 (with a two-year contract and a $100 mail-in rebate). We wish it had Wi-Fi, but otherwise, the Curve 8310 is a solid, stylish option for AT&T customers.
The 8310 is the same size (4.2 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches) and weight (3.9 ounces) as its predecessor, the Curve 8300, and has the same design, too. It comes in two new colors, however: red and titanium. The 8310 features the same bright and crisp 2.5-inch screen that's complemented by a clickable trackball and four navigation buttons. The microSD Card slot is buried beneath the battery in the back, which is annoying, but we're pleased to see a 3.5mm headphone jack, dedicated Push-to-Talk button on the left side, and a mute button along the top brim. This button also pushes the phone into standby mode when held down. On the right side are volume controls and a button to launch the phone's 2-MP camera. Plus, who could forget the star feature: the signature QWERTY-keypad, which is well spaced and as thumb-friendly as ever.
Camera and Video Performance
We love that the Curve 8310 melds multimedia fun into such a productive device. The 2-MP camera--equipped with flash and 5X digital zoom--took decent pictures indoors and out. Despite a bright flash, indoor shots looked a little too flesh-toned, while pictures taken outdoors were stark and clear. Unfortunately, this Curve cannot record video.
You can, however, transfer videos to the Curve 8310 for watching on the go, so long as you have a microSD Card up to 2GB (the installed 64MB of space won't cut it). You'll need to convert AVI, H.263, and WMV files to MPEG-4 format to view them on the 8310. Conveniently, the phone handles this automatically with BlackBerry Desktop Manager. Just drag and drop the files into the desktop software, transfer them to the handset, and the media player will display them with impressive clarity on the 2.5-inch screen.
Viral video lovers should note that the 8310 is not a phone for constant YouTubers. Unlike on the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 (and the upcoming Curve 8330 from Sprint and Verizon Wireless) you can't view streaming video on the Curve 8310's browser.
8310 Music Features
On the music front, we downloaded John Mayer's Continuum from AmazonMP3 and had no problem porting the tunes to the 8310. You can also add WAV, MIDI, AAC, and WMA files without a hitch. We really enjoyed the 8310's sound quality. Vultures sounded lush and textured as we listened via a stereo Bluetooth headset. When we plugged in the included wired headset, though, the audio became slightly scratchy.
Music fans will happily note that the 8310 is also the first RIM phone to support AT&T Mobile Music, a collection of online music services that includes subscriptions to XM Radio Mobile ($8.99 a month) and music retailers such as eMusic Mobile and Napster Mobile (both $7.49 for 5 songs a month). The Curve 8310 comes with a 24-hour trial of XM radio. Typically, the XM radio player took 30 to 60 seconds to load a station. Also, the signal was consistent in the open air but brittle and full of pauses when we tested it indoors.
GPS on the BlackBerry Curve 8310
By pairing the preinstalled TeleNav software with AT&T's Navigator service ($9.99 per month), the 8310 is a step up from the original Curve, which required users to purchase a separate Bluetooth-capable TeleNav GPS receiver for GPS capability. On our tests, the service worked well outdoors and in open spaces, but a satellite signal was nonexistent around tall buildings and indoors whether we were in Manhattan or not. When we crossed the Williamsburg Bridge in a cab on our way to Brooklyn, however, the landscape flattened, and reception was spotless. We liked that the 8310 didn't skip a beat when our cab driver missed a turn in Brooklyn: It provided rerouted directions instantly.
Voice directions from Bryant Park to our office (just a few blocks away) worked very well. The program factored one-way streets into the directions and gave us the next leg of our journey well before we reached the close of our current one. We were also impressed that the navigator knew which side of the street held our destination.
As we walked, we watched the number of feet between our current location and our destination dwindle down to zero, but we were confused when the navigator prematurely announced we'd arrived, despite the fact that the entrance was clearly a hundred feet or so ahead of us. Still, the unit was accurate to the city block, just not to street numbers.
How's the Traffic?
Commute Alert lets you receive automated traffic updates for up to 20 definable routes on the Curve 8310. These alerts can assign a specific time of day to take traffic inventory of a given route and then automatically e-mail or text the user with current information. It's a useful service for morning commuters who want a no-hassle way to check for bumper-to-bumper delays or car accidents along preferred routes before hitting the road.
We do wish, however, that you could see traffic conditions overlaid onto the maps in Driving Directions mode. Instead, BlackBerry 8310 owners debating whether or not to continue on a traffic-jammed highway while simultaneously following AT&T Navigator's driving directions will have to access a traffic summary list that shows road congestion by each leg of their journey. This view temporarily displaces the moving map view, which makes for a lot of clicking and reading instead of paying attention to the road--not good for those driving in unfamiliar territory.
Looking up traffic updates when not using the moving map view is a little easier with AT&T Navigator's connection to INRIX traffic service. Using this feature pulls up a 2D map with color-coded roads and flashing warning signs that are very easy to read.
AT&T Navigator also offers a good but not stellar 3D moving view, which stores frequently used addresses, retrieves weather updates, and contains a 10 million-POI database that you can search by name or category, such as "Gas by Price," "Banks/ATMs," and "Bars/Clubs."
E-mail and Messaging
As with all BlackBerrys, push e-mail worked very efficiently on the Curve 8310. You can easily configure real-time access to up to ten e-mail accounts. Setting up a personal Gmail account and a work-related SMTP mail account was quick and painless. The addition of the simple-to-use BlackBerry Messenger IM software to this model was a nice touch for use with other BlackBerry users. AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger are not preloaded, but they're speedy installs, so we didn't fret much.
Surfing the Web on the Curve 8310
Load times for full HTML Web pages were faster over the AT&T Curve 8310 than onT-Mobile's Curve 8320when using both carriers' EDGE networks. Both NYTimes.com and CNN.com loaded in about 12 seconds on the 8310; whereas the same sites took 17 seconds and 36 seconds, respectively, on the 8320 with Wi-Fi disabled. We do wish the Curve 8310 had a Wi-Fi connection for faster surfing when in the home or office, or when at a hotspot, but it's certainly not a dealbreaker.
We had no problems making calls over AT&T's GSM network. Unlike the original Curve, where dropped calls were a nagging glitch, the 8310 proved more reliable. Conversations via thePlantronics Voyager 855Bluetooth headset and the included wired headset were all hiccup-free. Calls made over the speakerphone sounded slightly distorted to us, but our callers didn't complain.
RIM says that the Curve 8310 has up to 4 hours talk time and 17 days of standby time. Our phone survived about 2.5 days of moderate phone, Web, and music player use without needing a recharge. That's pretty good endurance for a smart phone.
BlackBerry Curve 8310 Verdict
The AT&T BlackBerry Curve 8310 is a strong option for BlackBerry fans who want a productivity powerhouse with extra multimedia strength. The 2-MP camera, relatively speedy Web browser, multimedia player, e-mail and messaging integration, and addition of GPS make the Curve 8310 a device that's sure to impress mobile professionals and everyday consumers alike.